Date: 03 Oct 2010


Revisiting the assassination of Gandhi /////////////////// Though it is cruel to draw a parallel, the murder of Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, 1948, was the result of an intense conflict of nationalism between Gandhi and his assassin. Nathuram Godse has remained the hate figure, condemned to history books as the man who assassinated the Mahatma. But even to hate Godse one needs to understand the mind of a militant nationalist and his ideology of Akhand Bharat. ////////////// Undeniably an intellectual and influential editor of a Marathi newspaper, it is baffling that Nathuram, who lampooned, castigated and challenged Gandhis principles for years, finally threw the pen down to wield the gun. All along, Godse blamed Gandhi for not stopping Partition and de-secularisation of the freedom movement. In his defence to the world, he argued that any delay would have led to further emasculation of the Hindu community and that Gandhi had already done the damage by agreeing to Partition and to the demands of the Muslim League. ///////////////// His speech during the trial not a defence argument to escape the gallows was so powerful that the judge said that if there were a jury Godse might have walked free. His speech was banned by the Nehru government; no western paper published it. A small-time daily in England managed to get the entire proceedings and put it out. But it remained unnoticed till eminent author M V Godbole saw a photocopy of it in London. The ban was lifted in India in 1977 and Nathurams brother Gopal Godse, too, worked on it. /////////// Records say it was the fifth attempt on Gandhi by nationalist militants and angry refugees. There were crude bomb attacks at Gandhis meeting places four times. Among the convicts, Madanlal Pahwa, a refugee from Lahore and Gopal Godse were given long prison sentences. Digambar Badge, an accomplice, turned approver. Nathuram and Narayan Apte were hanged in November 1949. ////////////// As Nathuram said, there were attempts by the police and the administration to implicate Hindu Mahasabha leader Veer Savarkar. The apparent intention was to pin down the right-wing group, which was not happy with Gandhis policies and the pampering of the Jinnahs. Gandhis role in the freedom movement has been subjected to intense interpretation by many historians. He has even been accused of imposing his rigours on Congress members. When he wanted a resolution that all those Congress members who did not spin khadi for half an hour daily should be removed, it drew sharp criticism from Motilal Nehru and C R Das who walked out of the meeting. //////////// There were people on the other side of the fringe who thought Gandhi did not stop Partition. When talk of Partition gained momentum and Jinnah was firm on his Two-Nation Theory, Gandhi announced that division would only take place over his dead body. For people like Nathuram Partition did happen and Gandhi still lived. When Mountbatten asked Gandhi whether he would oppose the plan Gandhi, it being his day of silence, wrote in his reply: Have I ever opposed you? It is baffling why Gandhi kept mum. Or was he allowing himself to be persuaded to support Partition? People like Nathuram put the entire blame on this satyagrahi. ///////////// Nathurams court speech praised the way Gandhi brought about a mass awakening. He appreciated his weapon of non-violence and its power that forced the South African government to give immigrant Indians their due. But he was staunchly critical of the way Gandhi went about appeasing the League. In Nathurams words: Gandhi did not follow it (non-violence). In politics you cannot follow non-violence. You cannot follow honesty. Every moment, you have to give a lie... Is his non-violence followed anywhere? Not in the least. Nowhere. This outburst came against the backdrop of the massacre of Hindus in Noakhali, now in Bangladesh, in 1946 and Gandhis alleged silence. ///////////// Nathurams reasons were based on three issues: Muslim appeasement that led to Partition, his endorsement to pay Pakistan `55 crore and finally his move to settle down in Lahore. Post-Partition, Gandhi sought Jinnahs permission. He was to travel to Pakistan in February 1948. Gandhi requested some 40 Punjabi families who had fled Lahore and taken shelter in Delhi to accompany him. Only one family agreed. ///////////// Historians are divided on whether Gandhi did the right thing by making Nehru pay `55 crore to Pakistan. Nehru said the money would be used to build sinews of war by Pakistan. Further, Gandhi asked thousands of Hindu refugees in Delhi to vacate the mosques in which they had taken shelter. Pahwa, one of Nathurams accomplices, was a disillusioned refugee who swore revenge. ////////////// Nathurams opposition to Gandhi was political. Gandhi had once called Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Guru Gobind Singh misguided patriots. According to Nathuram, British diplomacy had sized up the Mahatma. The British, Nathuram said in court, humoured Gandhi while keeping him away from real policy decisions. They pampered the likes of Jinnah and divided the country. To buttress his argument, Nathuram dwelt at length on the British policy of separate electorates and Gandhis support for the Khilafat movement. /////////////// After the Partition bloodshed, Gandhi went to temples and made others chant verses of the Quran along with the Gita. But, as Nathuram argued, it never happened in the case of mosques. In fact, he told the judge, it will be a heyday in the history of the world when the Muslims allow the chanting of the Vedas in mosques by Hindus and the Hindus allow Muslims to recite the Quran in temples. As his symbolism grows, Gandhis relevance is confined to pious talks. So Nathurams court speech gives enough insight into the mind of a militant nationalist and a satyagrahi who simply stuck to his principles. ///////////// ///////////// =======================================/////////// 000000000